I?ve never really gotten into free jazz ? jazz that has no form or structure, just playing. Most of what I?d heard was long pieces that didn?t seem to go anywhere and featured too much honking for my taste. That hasn?t deterred me from continuing to listen to experimental jazz. My patience has paid off with the Zen Bastards, whose CD April Fool is the first improvisational jazz recording that I can label accessible.
The first thing that hooked me on April Fool is the atmosphere, primarily created by Scott Vercoe with his Fender Rhodes Satellite, Hammond Porta B3 and Hohner E6 Clay. Next was the clear saxophone playing of ?Grand Bastard? Mike Caglianone. Then you?ll notice the various styles that the quartet (electric bassist Brian Verrochi and drummer Jimmy ?the sammich? Lucchese complete the band) easily integrates in the music. It?s an improvisational recording that includes free jazz, funk, rock, electronica, and even some spoken word on the unforgettable ?Caledonia?. Overall, it?s amazing that this CD is 55 minutes of music but only six tracks. You won?t notice that ?Like Iguana Without the ?G?? is 15 minutes long. It?s that interesting to listen to.
How do you make a recording that has no preconceived form this listenable? I?m not sure how these guys pulled it off. It may be the contemporary styles and instrumentation. In any event, Caglianone agrees ?it can be musically challenging to listen to a 30 minute free piece that has no rhythmic, harmonic or melodic anchor, even for the most diehard fan or musician.? One of the goals of the band is to make jazz accessible to the TV generation. With April Fool, I?d say mission accomplished.
Want to try the Zen Bastards out for yourself? Sample some MP3s at their site, or you can try to win a copy now! I?ve got five copies of April Fool to give away. Five random people will be selected next Friday, July 11 to get a copy. Good luck!